24 Sep 2021 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2020 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Are you fit for 2020?


Are you fit for 2020?

Paul Bedford eases us into the new year with a look at how to tackle the competition

Dr Paul Bedford PhD, Retention Guru

In today’s competitive market, when another operator opens up nearby, you can expect to lose 20-50 per cent of customers for a period of 6-18 months.

What can you do to survive, thrive and maintain a profitable facility, by planning for and responding to this kind of challenge?

Blurred lines
The fitness industry used to consist of big clubs and small clubs; it was very linear, but now we have brands with no physical club at all, such as Gympass, ClassPass and Hussle and options for consumers are now so broad it’s no longer enough just to have a good location.

Add to that the diversity we’re seeing with the development of facilities, such as Clip ‘n Climb, Bear Grylls Fitness, table tennis concept, SPIN and relaxation and meditation centre, CH/LL and with streaming of fitness now so readily available, anyone and everyone can have access to exercise and guided workouts.

With the industry evolving, diversifying and niching as it matures, health and fitness operators need to defend their market and make significant gains in both member acquisition and retention in order to survive. We’d advise concentrating on three areas:

• Create a differentiated proposition from the competition in order to sustain the business in the long-term by standing out from rivals.

• Consolidate and increase your gross membership base – being the dominant operator in your market and location will help to maintain and increase your market share

• Increase the lifetime value of each member – not just by increasing the length of their membership or the amount they pay each month, but also by increasing the amount they pay out as secondary spend in areas such as on F&B, supplements, food deliveries or retail. With the right strategy, you could have members who spend a considerable amount in your club in a short period of time

Paul Bedford
"Operators need to defend their market and make significant gains in both member acquisition and retention in order to survive" - Paul Bedford
Solid business
Dragons’ Den – how do you measure up to their key questions?

If you watch programmes like Dragons’ Den or Shark Tank you’ll have realised there are ten main questions investors ask to understand if a company is a solid business or something that’s ill conceived, not scalable and won’t stand the test of time.

• What’s your idea, business or concept?
This is your elevator pitch. You need to be able to deliver it in less than a minute, explaining what your business does, why you’re doing it and how it can help other people; what problems does it solve?

• What’s your route to market?
Different businesses use different ways to attract customers. If you have a physical club it’s likely to be face to face walk-ins, flyers, digital marketing and your impact sales team. For a digital brand it will be online and media-based. You need to identify how you’re going to find and attract customers.

• What do you sell and for how much?
What’s your sales forecast? How do you work out your pricing? This is the most difficult step because, as you’ve seen on Dragons’ Den, people always think their business is worth more than it actually is when it comes to establishing value.

It’s finding that balance – the sweet spot between what you believe it’s worth and what others think it’s worth. It’s also about cost of delivery. What does it cost you to deliver your product or service?

Going through this process will give you a solid understanding of what business you’re in. One of the biggest challenges we see in the industry is operators getting sidetracked by trends, thinking ‘we could do that too’, which often takes away from the core product.

I truly admire John Treharne. He came up with The Gym Group concept and hasn’t changed it fundamentally.

Sure he’s tweaked, evolved and improved the product, but he decided to do one thing and do that really well.

• Differentiate or Die
As we’ve said before, the fitness industry offers consumers an endless number of choices that range from wildly different to virtually identical.

Understanding your position in the market, by identifying who you’re looking to attract and delivering solutions to meet their needs, is key to understanding how you can differentiate yourself from the competition. This is the only way to retain and gain customers in this increasingly competitive environment.

John Treharne had a clear vision in building The Gym Group
10 things to differentiate your business
Each will enable you to stand out from your rivals. Mix them up to create your positioning

1. Establish your brand positioning – where do you sit within the market?

2. Be first to market – just as Hoover is synonymous with vacuums, so Spinning is commonly used for indoor cycling

3. Aim for attribution ownership, think Les Mills for structured workouts, Mercedes for engineering, Ferrari for speed

4. Focus on leadership – are you a respected in your market? Do people admire and follow what you’re doing?

5. Reference your heritage – think Gold’s or David Lloyd Leisure. Can you trade on being well established?

6. Market a speciality – focus on developing a niche product, as Concept2 and Soul Cycle have done

7. Be preferred – are you the product that people choose over all the others?

8. Be great at what you do. Brands like 1Rebel stand out because of the way they teach classes

9. Create the latest trends – get inspired by something up and coming

10. Look back as well as forwards: think Dr. Martens, which were popular in the 70s and are now back as a trendy brand

Brand like 1Rebel stand out because of the way they teach classes
How to win in a competitive market

Defending yourself against competition by working where it’s coming from and what the new competitor’s differentiator and proposition is. This is the only way to effectively manage the impact of increased competition.

• Do your homework: find out who you’re competing against

• Plan your response carefully

Work out what it would mean to your revenue if you lost 30 per cent of your customers. Don’t forget to factor in staff you may lose to the competitor too.

Decide what you’ll do to differentiate and position yourself to stand out. Establish what budget you’ll need to cope with the impact of lost members/staff and additional marketing. Calculate what you can sustain and what you’ll have to drop.

Create a timeline
Working backwards from when the competitor is due to open, establish how long you’ve got to collect information about them and what you need to find out and devise a plan.

Set a date for when you’ll start to implement these tactics and create a realistic timeline for action.

Decide if you’re going to change your membership offering. If so, train all staff so they can explain why it’s changed. Be honest and use a consistent message throughout your PR and marketing.

You need one frictionless approach.

Review, revise, renew
Keep track of what you’ve done and how numbers are changing in response. How many people did you lose last month? How quickly are people coming back? Measure sales and attrition and keep an eye on what customers are saying via an effective feedback mechanism.

CASE Study:
Magna Vitae

If your numbers aren’t changing, sometimes that equals success.

Two years ago, the operating landscape around some of the centres run by leisure trust, Magna Vitae, changed dramatically; they were no longer competing in the same market, and developed a plan to protect themselves from competition.

Working with Paul Bedford they undertook a retention review, concentrating on their mission and vision statements, core values and expected staff behaviours and setting minimum service standards to be practised on a daily basis.

With a broad range of facilities on offer, staff were encouraged to think similarly around the quality of their interactions with customers; to improve their understanding of how they could persuade them to do what they wanted, increase visit frequency and help them achieve their goals.

Evaluation and feedback tools meant Magna Vitae could also monitor improvements in customer satisfaction within all areas of service.

With low cost competitors coming into play, Magna Vitae forecast to lose 4,000 members over a two-year period, but following the programme, memberships has remained steady, and with a new centre on the cards and a refit underway, Magna Vitae is confident business will remain stable.

Magna Vitae says it has fought off a competitive threat by focusing on service

Originally published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 1

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